Folks in a small town in Alabama are being told they are more than welcome to continue on with their annual tradition of filling the streets with holiday joy in the form of a big Christmas parade – as long as they keep Christ out of it.
The annual parade in Piedmont draws large crowds and always features the local high school marching band and its sports stars, as well as a Santa Claus and beauty pageant winners. But this year the town’s parade committee has been told it is not allowed to select “Keep Christ in Christmas” as its theme, reports Fox News, despite the fact that many of its residents attend church.
Mayor Bill Baker said the news, which came from a group of out-of-town atheists, was completely unexpected.
“It was a great theme,” Baker said. “I was totally shocked when I received the letter. It’s a small town. It’s a small Christmas parade. We didn’t think there would be any problems at all.”
But members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is based in Wisconsin, reportedly informed him that one Piedmont resident was upset about the parade’s theme. In a letter sent to Baker, FFRF reportedly told him that the chosen theme “alienates non-Christians and others in Piedmont who do not in fact have a ‘strong belief in prayers’ by turning them into political outsiders in their own community. The sentiment of ‘Keeping Christ in Christmas’ does not qualify as a secular celebration.”
FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel reportedly recommended that the city find a theme that is more “inclusive” and that doesn’t go against residents’ constitutional rights.
This isn’t the first time the town has dealt with a request to keep religion out of secular activities and events. Earlier this year, the local high school was told to stop praying before football games.
Baker says that, even though the parade committee will be forced to change its theme, the idea of Christ is still present in the Christmas parade and that it will include religious floats and parade-goers will hold religious flags while standing on the sidelines.
“It’s a positive march – it’s not a protest march,” Baker said. “They are keeping the theme alive even though legally we had to do away with it.”
Baker had some choice words for the person who complained about the theme.
“I’d like to tell that person – whoever he or she is – if they even exist – to stay at home,” he said. “If they don’t like a Christian theme, if they don’t like a Christian parade – stay at home.”
Source: Fox News/Photo Credit: WBRC – Fox 6, ABC News